Page created by Lisa Newton
Miroslav Kobasa


Policy paper

                             Minsk, 2012
1.     Short introduction tolocal self-government situation in Belarus               2
1.1.   The system oflocal self-government in Belarus                                 2
1.2.   Constitutional model of power                                                 2
1.3.   European Charter of Local Self-Government                                     3
1.4.   The main conditions for reforms                                               4

2.     Presentation of the basic problems and setting goals to achieve them          5

2.1.   The basic problems                                                            5
2.2.   Description of tasks for solving the problems                                 5

3.     The main options for the development of the situation in the sphere oflocal   14
self-government in Belarus
3.1.   Option 1. «Status quo»                                                        14
3.2.   Option 2. «Imitating the reforms»                                             15
3.3.   Option 3. «Reforms»                                                           17

4.     Analysis of options                                                           19

4.1.   Option 1. «Status quo»                                                        19
4.2.   Option 2. «Imitating the reforms»                                             20
4.3.   Option 3. «Reforms»                                                           20

5.     Conclusions and recommendations                                               22

Conclusions                                                                          22

Recommendations                                                                      23

Literature                                                                           24

Annexes                                                                              25
1. Short introduction to local self-government
situation in Belarus

1.1. The system of local self-government in Belarus
      From 1990 the situation in USSR and after its breakdown has been encouraging and inspired a feeling of
inevitability of reforms. Local self-government was one of the spheres where this sense dominated, too. In 1991 a Law
“On Basics of Local Self-Government and Local Economic Management in BSSR” was adopted. It gave power from party
institutions to Councils atlocallevel and created good preconditions forlocal self-government development.

       However beginning from 2004 the process of establishment and development oflocal self-government in Belarus
first stopped and then went back.

      In 1995 the “vertical” of executive-administrative bodies (“Executive Committee”) began to grow: the Councils
“delegated” their mandates to executive bodies, so that they got more and more political, economic and personnel
power and influence. Constitution and legislation were changed: since then the executive bodies have stopped being
subordinated to the Councils and became subordinated to the government and President.

      As a result in 1999 the state “vertical” oflocal government was established, andlater it was only getting stronger.

     So a system of local and regional administration was created in Belarus, which is based on principles of state
theory of local self-government (created by Rudolf von Gneist and Lorenz von Stein in the middle of the XIX century).
The main postulates of this theory can be presented in the following way:

      • Local self-government is a continuation of state, and its bodies are in fact local government agencies;
      • Area of responsibility of local self-government is the implementation of state goals; so local self-
government agencies cannot have other tasks rather than formulated by the state;
      • Any public administration is a state affair, therefore the sense of existence of local self-government is
not divided by the-? state, but obeying its interests and goals.

1.2 Constitutional model of the power

     The concept of Republic of Belarus Constitution regardinglocal democracy assumes existence of two kinds oflocal
authorities: (Section 5, Articles 117-124). In the Constitution they are assigned in the following way:
     a)local government;
     b)local self-government.

      Local government means activity of local executive-administrative authorities which are subordinated and
reporting directly to the President of the Republic of Belarus (Article 119 of the Constitution of Belarus).

      Local self-government means activity of local Councils of deputies, which are elected by citizens for 4 years
(Article 118 of the Constitution of Belarus).

      The Constitution directly establishes a vertical chain of the command of both the executive authorities and
Councils by introducing the notions of “superior executive-administrative body” and “superior representative body”
(Article 122 of the Constitution of Belarus). So the highestlevel for executive-administrative bodies is the President of
the Republic of Belarus, and for representative bodies – the Parliament, National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.

      As we can see, in Belarus there is a constitutionally secured model of power, which consists of two hierarchic
verticals: executive power andlegislative power, as it is illustrated at Figure 1  (Annex 1). This model reminds the Soviet

model of organization oflocal power with one crucial exception. In accordance with USSR Constitution of 1977 (Article
149 of the USSR Constitution) local executive authorities have been formed by local Councils of popular deputies,
reported to them and controlled by them. In the Constitution of Belarus it is stated that local executive bodies are
formed by the President of the Republic of Belarus who appoints heads of these authorities or determins the order of
that appointment. It sounds paradoxically but we have to resume that Soviet system oflocal public administration was
to a greater extend, according to European Charter of Local Self Government than the existing one in Belarus today.

1.3 European Charter of Local Self-Government

       The European Charter of Local Self-Government was adopted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of
Europe October 15, 1985. This document is signed and ratified by 44 out of 47 member states of the Council of Europe
(as of May 4, 2010).

       The European Charter of Local Self-Government is an internationallegal instrument, which is the result of a number
of initiatives and long-term work within the Council of Europe. The Charter is a major source of municipal law for the
European countries, following the way of development oflocal self-government in modern Europe.

      It is noted in the scientific and practical commentary on the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, edited by
G. Vasilevich (Article 117), following the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which the most fully describes the
concept and principles oflocal self-government, is one of the conditions for entry into the Council of Europe.1

      Definitely, while preparing to the entry of Belarus into the Council of Europe, the issue of signing and ratification
of the European Charter of Local Self-Government will be arisen. Every country that joined the European Charter of Local
Self-Government in accordance with paragraph 1 of Article 12 of the Charter agrees to be bound by the requirements
of at least twenty of the thirty paragraphs of Part I of the Charter, including at least ten from a nucleus of fourteen
basic principles.

      Analyzing the opinions and articles of a number of Belarusian and foreign experts in the field of local self-
government, we could state that the Belarusian system oflocal self-government and the European Charter are based on
two different grounds. As it was mentioned above,local self-government in Belarus is based on the state theory oflocal
self-government. The principles and norms of the European Charter are formulated in the spirit of theory of dualism - a
combination of state and public origins: within the framework oflocal issueslocal self-government is independent, but
as soon aslocal self-government goes beyond, it becomes a part of the state machine.

       Since the Republic of Belarus is officially a candidate country to enter the Council of Europe (the application of
the March 12, 1993) it is the subject to the content of Part 3 of Article 2 of the Statutory Resolution CM / RES (2007) 6
“On the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe”, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on May 2, 2007:
“... Congress is preparing on a regular basis, for each country individually, reports on thelocal and regional democracy
in all member states and in states that have applied for membership in the Council of Europe, and seeks to ensure, in
particular, that the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government are applied in practice”.

      For this purpose the Institutional Committee of the Congress established a Commission of independent experts on
the European Charter of Local Self-Government (document CG/INST (7) 33 rev.2), which deals with country monitoring
of the implementation the European Charter provisions into national legislation of the Council of Europe member
countries or candidate countries.

   1. For entry into the Council of Europe in addition to joining the European Charter of Local Self-Government other demands are made for
   candidate countries. They include signing and ratification of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,
   abolition of the death penalty and other requirements that are not going to be considered in this policy paper.

1.4 The main conditions for reforms
      In order to conduct an effective reform, four main factors must simultaneously be present:
      • Political will ofleaders, their strong desire to change the situation;
      • Knowledge of experts in order to define goals and ways to reach them;
      • Public support or atleast consent to changes;
      • People ready to implement reforms in practice.

      Out of the listed factors only the second exists (however, when estimated with a certain degree of optimism).
Formation of other factors is a certain process, the result of which is the uprising of conditions for implementation of
the reform.

      One may ask whether to start reforms now, or to wait until people and the society would be ready?
      Yes, people and the society are not ready, but they cannot learn democracy from books. Society can learn only by
taking part in the functioning of the new system. We believe that the postponement of reforms means a rejection of
carrying them out at all. The key to success is not delaying the start of reform but the acceleration of the evolution
of public awareness, providing support in the process of adjusting to the new system and in using the chances that it

      Programs aimed at civil society development play the key role in this process.

2. Presentation of the basic problems and
setting goals to address them
       As the reality shows, the implementation of the state theory of local self-government leads to establishment of
administrative relations between state authorities and local self-government bodies, and in some extreme cases (e.g.,
in Belarus) it even leads to the complete disappearance of local self-government and its replacement by local
government. The state model is definitely efficient in the way that it provides complete subordination of the ruled
entity to its superior, and as a consequence - one hundred percent implementation of top decisions at the local level.
However, this model is rarely effective in a broader sense: it does not become a well-functioning, it gets no civil support.
Within this model citizens do not get the real capacity to manage local affairs. Civic officers (the local government
officials) do not base their actions on the interests of the population, and are guided by instructions received from
higher levels of the government. But the central government, due to some natural causes (distance, focusing on the
problems of a different order, etc.), can hardly imagine local issues and problems, so its decisions are often far from
optimal. They are executed, but often bring no benefit to the citizens. So the dissatisfaction of population with the
local government grows, and in case of difficult economic situation in the country, it couldlead to mass protests. Finally,
this model cannot be recognized as matching democratic standards of management.

2.1. Presentation of the basic problems
      Taking into consideration the specific situation in Belarus and above-mentioned state of affairs, we consider the
following problems in the sphere oflocal self-government in Belarus to be fundamental:
      2.1.1. absence of political will to start and carry out the reforms;
      2.1.2. presence of centralized model of government at regional andlocallevels;
      2.1.3. discrepancy between Belarusianlegislation and the European Charter of Local Self-Government;
      2.1.4. absence of official conceptual approaches to the development of local self-government in the Republic of
      2.1.5.       discrepancy of the principles of organization and holding (здесь of не надо) the local elections to
democratic standards;
      2.1.6.       lowlevel of people’s public administration education working in this sphere;
      2.1.7.       loss of traditions of the local community and civil society, excessive bureaucratization of direct
democracy forms,lack of transparency of thelocal authorities’ work.

2.2. Setting goals to address these problems

      2.2.1. Formation of political will

      This task can be divided into two stages:

      • The first stage. The main objective is to obtain consent to carry out reforms from the political leaders of the
ruling group.
      When realizing this stage the efforts should be directed to the formation of such views within the ruling group. On
the one hand, some external factors can influence such a mind shift, e.g. development of the political, economic, social
and other situations within Belarus and abroad. On the other hand, such influence and assistance may be provided by
means oflobbying organizations and civil society, mass media, or it could happen due to the revaluation of views within
the ruling group (because of its personal renewal, or individual personal ambitions of status or material character, or
increasedlevel of perception and awareness of existing problems).

       • The second stage begins when the ruling group is ready to make a decision on the initiation of reforms. On
this stage it is necessary to obtain the consent of other political groups, and society.
       On the second stage the effort should be directed to political parties outside the ruling group, the structures of
civil society, and citizens directly. The ruling groups and state bodies and institutions should become initiators and
executors of this work.

2.2.2.      Decentralization of power. The principle of subsidiarity.

      As history shows, centralized control system cannot cope with the main task of the government - to ensure its
citizens a decent standard ofliving.

      In any legal democratic state one of the initial conditions for the existence of local self-government institute
within the power system is exactly the decentralization of power. In the most general sense, decentralization is the
transfer of certain amount of power from government to local elected bodies (self-government bodies) and giving
them the necessary rights, responsibilities and resources.

      The decentralization of state power is a key problem in implementing administrative reforms at the local level.
The difficulty is to find an appropriate balance between decentralization of state power and autonomy of local self-
government bodies that meets the actual conditions and thelevel of the society development.

      Theory of modern constitutionalism claims that the state should be understood as a common property of all
citizens, whose goal is to create optimal conditions for development and, first of all, the following conditions:
      • ensuring welfare;
      •law enforcement;
      • ensuring conditions for the development of culture;
      • internal and external security guarantee.

       Thus, the function of the state is not the «management» itself, but the establishment of stable and secure
environment for consumers, businesses and civic associations. The development of the state and society is not the
result of the administration, it is a sum of the results of the actions of individuals and organizations of social and
economic spheres. The state may facilitate or complicate this development. The state may be the reason why the results
will be multiplied or squandered, but of course, it cannot replace the activity of independent subjects.

      The modern state should deal only with what it must deal with. What goes beyond the frame of its primary
functions must be transferred to other subjects which would do it much better, cheaper and more efficient. Thus, it is a
completely different philosophy of the state, according to which it must fundamentallylimit its responsibility area. This
means not only the privatization in economy, but also far-reaching deregulation and limitation of state interference
into various spheres of sociallife. Coverage of activities and responsibilities of the state has to be seriously narrowed.

      The state is not only the government and its administration. Not all of the state functions should be executed by
the central administration. The basis of such approach is the principle of subsidiarity. This principle is a cornerstone
of the organization in a modern democratic state.

      The principle of subsidiarity, which determines a person as the main subject of any activity, claims that other
institutions should be established as a subsidiary to his or her actions. Therefore, the village council should deal
with what the individual and his or her family cannot do. In these regards, the district authorities should function as
auxiliary to village council, and the same regarding the regional ones in relation to the district authorities.

       The same principle is also to be applied to the state and the government. The state must perform support functions
in relation to all institutions and organizations serving the interests of citizens. Institutions are built where smaller
organizationslocated closer to the citizen are not able to perform more complex tasks.

     The principle of subsidiarity means a rejection of hierarchical dependence of subjects. You cannot claim to
«lower» unit to subordinate to the «high» if the latter should be only auxiliary to an «inferior». This statement is
fundamental to the organizational structure of a modern constitutional state.

      Unfortunately, both the previous socialistic system and the existing Belarusian one have taught the society
the opposite: for example, that the chairman of the district executive authority is the boss of the chairman of village
executive authority, and the Minister is a chief of both of them. There is a belief that an official from the center has
more power and value than the official of the regional orlocallevel. In fact, the role of the district executive authority is
complementary for the objectives of thelocal executive authority, and an official from the center is to help governments
and self-governments, and deal only with those issues, which they themselves cannot solve.

      The principle of subsidiarity defines the separation of powers. The adoption of the principle, which claims that
the state is an auxiliary organization means the need for decentralization and delegation of power «down.» It is also
necessary to separate the decentralization and deconcentration.

Decentralisation is the transfer of power and resources among autonomous units, whereas deconcentration is
the delegation of authority down within the same management system. «Deconcentrated» authorities anytime can be
returned back. Responsibility for their proper use is run by the same center, which gave specific tasks to lower unit in
order to improve efficiency.

      In the case of proper decentralization it happens differently. The transfer of authority and responsibility in
this case is not just a result of a central decision, but it is the effect of changes in legislation or a bilateral agreement
covering the transfer of authority and responsibility for certain tasks. The reverse transfer of authority requires further
changes inlegislation or another bilateral agreement.

      Obviously, in the case of administrative reforms we are talking about decentralization, not deconcentration.
The first one changes the institutional structure of the state, while the second - only the way to perform tasks.
And this is the fundamental difference between the decentralization of deconcentration.

      2.2.3.     Bringing the Belarusian legislation in the sphere of local self-government in accordance with
the principles and norms of the European Charter of Local Self-Government

      The correspondence between the Belarusian Constitution and Charter provisions

      The legal framework established by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus regarding local self-government
is not founded on the principles outlined in the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The most fundamental
differences relate to definition of the essence of local self-government and its responsibility to address local issues.
Table 1 (see Annex 2) gives the comparison of the norms of the Charter and Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.

      The presence of inconsistencies with the principles and norms of the European Charter of Local Self-Government
in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus prevents the movement of Belarus towards European integration. At
the same time, Article 8 of the Constitution prohibits the conclusion of international treaties that contradict it. The
European Charters in general and the European Charter of Local Self-Government in particular have the status of
international conventions or treaties. Given the fact that a certain number of rules of the Charter are in conflict with
the provisions of the Constitution, the ratification of the European Charter of Local Self-Government by the Republic of
Belarus formally is not possible without changing the correspondent constitutional norms.

      However, if the political will would appear, much of the controversy could be resolved by making changes and
additions to the Constitution. In accordance with Article 140 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, changes
and amendments to Part V «The Local Government and Self-Government» do not require holding a referendum, they may
be adopted by the Parliament (Article 139 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus).

      It is also important to assess the Belarusian legislation in the sphere of local self-government is the example of
the twolaws: the Law of the Republic of Belarus «On Local Government and Self-Government in the Republic of Belarus»
dated January 4, 2010 № 108-3 and the Budget Code of the Republic of Belarus of July 16, 2008 № 412-3, both in terms
of their compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government and in terms of showing of political will aimed
at integration into European space.

Analysis of compliance of norms of the Law «On Local Government and Self-Government in the Republic of
                    Belarus» with provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

       In accordance with the Law «On Local Government and Self-Government in the Republic of Belarus» of January
4, 2010 № 108-3, in Belarus there are three subordinated territorial levels of local power (see Figure 2, Annex 3). All
territorial levels have identical organizational structure of local government and self-government (except the city of
Minsk and the city divided into districts, where districts form district administrations, and councils of deputies are not

     The organizational structure of local power (except the cities divided into districts) is shown in Figure 3 (see
Appendix 4).

      In Figure 3 (see Annex 4) it is seen that the executive-administrative bodies operate on the principle of dual
subordination. It implies that not only the executive bodies report vertically to each other (it is an administrative
chain of command), but also their structural units report to the same structural units of the higher executive bodies
(sectorial chain of command). Executive bodies are accountable to the executive bodies of the parent, but not to
the public. They are accountable to the Councils of Deputies only regarding the issues within the competence of the
Councils of Deputies.

      The sectorial subordination means that almost all of the executive authorities should have the same set of
structural units. In other words, the Law, not installing directly, but in fact enters the same structure of the executive
bodies of all threelevels.

       This approach has been widely used in the Soviet period, when the activities of local authorities did not need
anything other than the execution of directives from the top level. Subordinate executive bodies were in fact just
territorial agents of higher executive bodies at that time. They had alimitedlevel of freedom and a strong administrative
influence on the representative bodies - the Councils of People’s Deputies. Such a scheme is extremely ineffective and
unable to meet new challenges in the market economy. The need for clear division of responsibilities between different
levels of the government, the emerged understanding the meaning of the government as a service provider through the
taxes paid by the citizens have led to the situation that many former Soviet countries had been forced to abandon the
use of the above-described scheme in favor of democratic standards.

      Regarding the article-by-article analysis of the text of the Law, it is necessary to explain the method used in the
research. The text of the current Law, designed as a Table 2 (see Appendix 5) was taken as the reference. Comparison
with the European Charter of Local Self-Government was done by the letter of the Charter (the analysis of comparable
content of articles) and by its spirit (analysis of the implications arising from the application of provisions of the Law
and comparing them with the provisions of the Charter). The result of the comparison the Law rules and the Charter
provisions is shown in the column «Comments.»

      Only those articles of the Law were analyzed to define the economic, institutional and political foundations of
thelocal authorities in the Republic of Belarus. Auxiliary of the Law or rules derived from its main provisions have not
been the subject of this analysis. In any case, the column «Comments» provides the indication of the reason of ignoring
the investigation of the certain norms.

                           Analysis of compliance of the Budget Code of the Republic of Belarus
                                   with the European Charter of Local Self-Government

      The article by article analysis of the Budget Code (see Table 3, Appendix 6) is completed on the basis of the
same research method that was applied in analyzing the provisions of the Law «On Local Government and Local Self-
Government in the Republic of Belarus.» The small number of the studied articles in the total amount of articles of the
Code is explained by the fact that the main bulk of the Code provisions concerns the state budget and public finances
and does not address issues of local government and self-government. Such a little attention paid to the regional and
locallevel of government in the Budget Code indicates atleast two things.

      The first is that the concept of subordination of all levels of the government, used in the Republic of Belarus
includes local authorities in the system of central government. In this regard, all the rules that determine the order of
the central government in the financial and fiscal areas apply to local self-governments, and this eliminates the need
for special regulation of these entities under the Budget Code.

      Secondly, on the basis of the Budget Code norms, one can make a conclusion on underestimation of the role of

local self-government: whatever budget decisions are made bylocal self-government, no matter what action is taken by
it, the result would be approximately the same. All additional funds received in excess of the income amount determined
in accordance with the state standards, will be forfeited in favor of the central government, and the central government
would also pay compensation in case of missing funds.

       In fact, thelogic of the Budget Code is that the financial resources of local authorities, called in the Code the
local budgets, are in practice are cost estimates approved by the central government through the strict regulation
of utility costs.

     2.2.4.     2.2.4. Preparation of conceptual provisions and approaches to the development of local self-
government in the Republic of Belarus.

      In order to improve the institutional mechanisms of governance, it is necessary to develop a unified approach to
the evolutionary development oflocal self-government.

       The absence of such an approach has a negative impact on the development of appropriate legislation, on the
development and practical implementation of some both national and regional programs, on the administrative and
territorial structure improvement, etc.

      Thus, the implementation of the «State Program of Development and Regeneration of Village,» about a third of
agro-towns arelocated in settlements that are not administrative centers of village councils. In some areas, optimization
of the administrative-territorial structure is fulfilled, for example, in Vitebsk, and is planned to be accomplished in
Mogilev, but there is no unified approach to solve this problem. Method of combining urban and rural Councils reduced
the number of administrative and territorial units. This sometimes led to a situation when the representative bodies
(the Councils) were abolished, but the executive-administrative bodies continued to work (e.g., in cities of Borisov and

       The process of merging (предлог не нужен) rural councils goes fast. As a result, for the period from 18.05.2006
till 25.04.2010 the number of rural councils has decreased by 97 units! How does this process go, what criteria are
taken into account, are there any organizational or economic research studies, whether this process is unified across
the state, are there any guidelines or regulations prepared and adopted by the relevant authorities? These and many
other questions remain open.

       At the same time, back in 29.09.2000 (!) the Congress of Councils of Deputies of the Republic of Belarus has
adopted the Resolution, Section 3 of which says: «It is necessary to ensure the development of the Concept of reforming
the local government and self-government in the Republic of Belarus on the basis of scientific researches of local self-
government issues.... «

      This Concept should be based on a model system of local self-government, built on the principles and norms of
the European Charter. To implement the Concept it is necessary to develop and approve alist of actions (including the
development of an appropriate legal framework and creating an economic basis for local self-government), as well as a
timetable for their implementation and to identify responsible persons.

     2.2.5.       Discrepancy of the principles of organization and holding of the local elections and democratic

      As it had been noted before, one of the basic and fundamental differences between thelocal self-government and
state administration is a method of forming the structure of public authorities: local self-governments are elected by
citizens, and state administration bodies are formed by being appointed by the parent bodies of the state administration.

      In addition, local elections are a form of manifestation of democracy in general, and a form of direct civic
participation inlocal self-government in particular.

     Beginning from the fall of 1996 all of the results of all the elections have not been recognized free, transparent
and democratic by international organizations because of numerous violations of the existing democratic standards.

      The most problematic aspects of organizing and holding the elections in Belarus are:
      - interference of both state andlocallevel state government bodies in the electoral process;
      - undemocratic character of the formation of election commissions;
      - too bureaucratic nature of the process of nomination of candidates;

-   opacity of registration of candidates;
      -   unequal conditions for candidates to campaign;
      -   the presence of non-transparent procedures for early voting;
      -   lack of transparency of vote counting;
      -   lack of access to information on the voting results at polling stations;
      -   obstructing public observers at polling stations to monitor voting and counting;
      -   inefficient procedure of appealing against election results and actions of election commission.

      To correct the situation the following immediate steps should be taken:
      • improvement of electorallegislation in regarding procedures to ensure transparency and democratic character
of electoral processes;
      • avoiding interference and administrative pressure on election commissions from national andlocal executive
      • changing the principle election commissions formation; inclusion of representatives of oppositional political
parties to commissions;
      • reducing bureaucratic procedures for the nomination of candidates;
      • ensuring transparency while the registration of candidates;
      • impossibility to use the administrative resources by the candidates related state administration;
      • exclusion of early voting procedure;
      • using modern polling equipment (transparent plastic boxes, electronic voting systems);
      • ensuring public observers with a real ability to track the voting and vote counting;
      • transparent counting of ballots;
      • mandatory issuance of the copy of the final protocol of the results of voting to each registered observer;
      • improvement of the procedure of appealing against election results and actions of election commission.

     In particular, the improvement of electorallegislation should be aimed at securing specific rights of civil society
organizations to participate in the election procedures, as well as in the strict regulation of all actions of election
commissions and government agencies within electoral process.

     Only securing voters’ confidence in fair and democratic character of all phases and procedures of election
campaigns would bringlegitimacy and authority tolocal self-governments.

      2.2.6.      Training and development of personnel in the sphere of local self-government.

     Training and development of personnel in the sphere of local self-government is one more top problem for the
Republic of Belarus.

      For many reasons, the Belarusian specialists do not have enough analytical information about the content, nature,
principles and norms of the European Charter and other international acts in the field oflocal self-government, as well
as the information about relevantlegislation of foreign countries.

       Educational courses for training of local self-government staff, as well as other educational activities that are
conducted from time to time both in Minsk and in regions, are almost always intended to clarify or discuss the current
legislation or the new legal acts issued by the President. Sometimes the draft laws or regulations in the sphere of local
self-government are discussed, but as a rule – the everyday problems oflocal importance.

     One way or another, but almost all training events are aimed at studying the current national law. As a result,
experts at thelocallevel (with rare exceptions) have a one-sided knowledgelimited by the nationallegislation.

      As a result, the experts do not have a system of concepts and terms unified with European science, there is
no systematic and up-to-date information on the reforms that have finished or still ongoing in the countries of
Central and Eastern Europe (including CIS countries), on the results of these reforms, their successes and failures.
There are too few scientific publications of Belarusian researches on issues oflocal self-government.

      The methodological basis of Belarusian universities is too poor, as well as and the level of preparation at the
faculty with the specialization «State Administration». The subject «Municipal Law» was generally excluded from the
curricula of universities.

      The specialization «State Administration» is not prestigious because young specialists after graduation have
problems with employment in this field. Just very few graduate students prepare dissertation research on issues oflocal

self-government, as in Belarus the topic is seen as unpromising.

      This situation can create serious problems in the nearest future. Especially this would be felt during the reform of
the existing system oflocal self-government and bringing it inline with the main (basic) requirements of the European
Charter of Local Self-Government. Therefore, the relevance of training and skills development in the area of local self-
government on the basis of modern knowledge is very high and requires special attention.

      2.2.7.    The revival of the traditions in the local community and civil society, de-bureaucratization of
direct democracy, transparency and openness in local government.

      • The revival of the traditions of the local community and civil society.

       The essence of self-government system is based on the principle that people living in a certain area, form a
community that is able to identify their needs and find ways to meet them. Local self-government can only be effective
if there is such a community, a model of public administration should reflect the state of development of civil society.
Despite the fact that in countries such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, self-government has already been existing for twenty
years, the essence of the reform of local government is not everywhere yet understood by citizens. The consequences
of forgetting the traditions of thelocal community and civil society are still dramatically felt. Nevertheless, it is active
participation of citizens inlocal self-government that helps to revive the forgotten traditions in these countries.

      Territorial community of citizens (hramada)

      The primary subject oflocal self-government is the territorial community of citizens exercising their rights, either
directly or via various institutions formed within it.

      In most European countries (Lithuania, Germany, Sweden, Ukraine, France, Switzerland, etc.) the concept of
«territorial community of citizens» (community, the commune, canton, in Belarusian - hramada) has alegislative basis.
Belarusianlegislation does not contain any notion of such a kind.

       As a result, it is impossible to determine what is the subject of local self-government - the territorial community
of citizens (hramada) or impersonal administrative-territorial unit, whose interests are represented, for example, by
the Minsk District Council of Deputies – the interests of the administrative-territorial unit or territorial community
of citizensliving in the area of the Minsk district. This reinforces the impression that there is no relationship between
citizens and the Council, which is elected by them.

      Citizens do not have possibility to organize their territorial community, as this concept does not exist inlaw, also
they do not have an opportunity to reflect features, specifics and traditions of local self-government in the Charter of
the territorial community of citizens (hramada), because such a Charter does not exist anywhere, except the city of

      Declaration on Principles of Local Self-Government in the CIS Member States, adopted October 29, 1994 by the
Interparliamentary Assembly of CIS Member States, defines local self-government as a system of organization of the
population (territorial communities of citizens) for independent and responsible solving problems oflocal importance
in accordance with thelaws of correspondent state (Article 1 of this Declaration). Furthermore, the Declaration stresses
that territorial communities of citizens have the right to decide local issues both through elected local self-
governments, and directly, and this right is guaranteed by the Constitution and currentlegislation.

      • De-bureaucratization of direct democracy.

      The Article 117 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belaruslists such forms of direct implementation oflocal self-
government by the citizens as local referendums and meetings, also it mentions other forms of direct participation of
citizens in decision-making regarding issues oflocal importance. There are more than 10 forms of directlocal democracy
mentioned in the Belarusianlegislation.

       It is well known that in Belarus there is no precedent of holding a local referendum. With regard to other forms
of direct democracy, the examples of them are very rare.

     The passivity of citizens in the implementation of direct forms of participation inlocal self-government can partly
be explained by the imperfection of instruments of direct democracy, the lack of conditions necessary for their use,
excessive complexity of the proposedlegal framework, etc.

The quality of legislation regulating the forms of direct democracy plays an important role in ensuring the
involvement of citizens in the process of public administration. The law can overcomplicate the democratic process,
imply substantial financial costs, and miss adequate guarantees for citizens in its implementation.

      As an illustration, let’s consider the order of organization and implementation of such forms of direct democracy
as thelocal referendum and thelocal assembly.

      Local referendum.

      The referendum is an opportunity for citizens to make the Council of Deputies or Executive Committee to take
their will into account. But the law gives the right to initiate and hold the referendum to the Councils, but not to
the citizens when they want to decide somelocal issue.

      The value of the institution of a local referendum is the possibility of its use by citizens on their own initiative,
that is, without the approval of the Council. Such a possibility, and not the indirect one through the Council, can be
considered a form of direct democracy. The mechanism of decision-making by referendum may be required namely
as an alternative to representative democracy, for example, in cases where the Council of Deputies or the Executive
Committee does not take the necessary decision or when their decision does not conform to the majority of citizens.

      And when the direct opportunity to initiate the referendum by the citizens is taken away from them, there could
be no speeches about direct self-government by the people!

      The issue of the importance of referendum question is very subjective. Paragraph 1 of Article 34 of the draft law
says that if citizens have collected the required number of signatures under a certain procedure, it means that the issue
should be considered as important, and a referendum to be held. It is citizens, not the Ministry of Justice, as required by
Paragraph 3 of Article 126 of the Electoral Code, to have the right themselves to determine whether the issue for them
is «essential» or not.

      In addition, in case of initiating a referendum by citizens, all costs associated with the implementation of
established procedures necessary to initiate a referendum shall be covered by the initiators (meaning by the citizens).

       It is quite clear why local referendum as a form of direct democracy is not attractive for the citizens. And as a
result, we have no precedent of holding alocal referendum.

      Local assembly

       Here again there are rules established bylaw and procedures, which create serious obstacles to citizens’ initiatives
for holding the local assemble. First of all, there is a very high requirement on the number of collected signatures (at
least 10% of the number of citizens living in the territory), and the obligation of the initiators themselves to finance
all the costs of thelocal assembly. Also, the initiators would need to solve some organizational issues, such as providing
facilities for thelocal congregation, which is impossible in case of Belarus without the help of the Executive Committee
(local government).

      So it turns out that in reality all the citizens’ initiative are tightly controlled and regulated by the local (and
other) authorities to the last detail , and the citizens without their consent cannot do anything. As long as this
situation persists, neither any local referendum, nor local assembly, or other forms of direct democracy would only be
called in such a way.

      In addition, there are too many laws regulating the forms of direct democracy, and they often regulate the same
issues. However, many legal gaps remain. Many of the notions used are not clear, their normative content is unclear,
too. Development of social activity and independence of citizens on the grassrootslevel is often prevented by thelocal
officials who consider the activities of thelocal community as an encroachment to his or her authority.

      All these factors affect the implementation oflaws, regarding both representative and direct democracy.

      Local self-government as an integral part of democracy requires a mandatory set of political institutions,
including elected officials, guarantees of freedom and fairness of election procedures, freedom of expression, alternative
information sources, the autonomy of association, respect to universal civil rights.

• Transparency and openness in local government

      In Article 3 of the Law «On Local Government and Self-Government in the Republic of Belarus» dated 04.01.2010,
the principle of transparency and consideration of public opinion is established, as well as the principle of permanent
informing the citizens regarding the decisions on key issues oflocal importance.

       The samelaw in the previous edition gave to every citizen an access to documents and materials directly affecting
his or her rights and interests, in theline with Article 34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus:

      Citizens of the Republic of Belarus shall be guaranteed the right to receive, store and disseminate complete,
reliable and timely information of the activities of state bodies and public associations, on political, economic, cultural
and internationallife, and on the state of the environment.

      State bodies, public associations and officials shall afford citizens of the Republic of Belarus an opportunity to
familiarize themselves with material that affects their rights andlegitimate interests.

      The use of information may be restricted bylegislation with the purpose to safeguard the honour, dignity, personal
and familylife of the citizens and the full implementation of their rights.

      The currentlaw has taken that opportunity away from citizens, which severely restricted their rights set in Article
34 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.

      The attitude of local authorities to public opinion when taking decisions on local issues can be illustrated with
an example of demolition of kiosks and other outlets from the streets of Minsk in 2008. Despite the negative reaction
to this decision expressed not only by entrepreneurs, but the vast majority of citizens (e.g., online surveys have shown
that 97% of respondents objected to the decision). Minsk City Executive Committee took this decision, and the Minsk
City Council of Deputies members withdrew from the solution of this problem. But this solution gave (and continues to
deliver) alot of inconvenience to citizens and createdlosses of time to purchase everyday consumer goods.

      Continuing the topic of transparency, we should mention overbureaucratized procedure for obtaining permits
for the citizens to attend the sessions of the local Councils of deputies, fixed in Council regulations. Informing
citizens about the activities of local Councils is very poor, too. First, the Councils do not have their own websites,
information about their activities is available on the websites of Executive Committees, and secondly, the websites
(with a few exceptions) are present only for the Executive Committees of the regional and the basic level, and, thirdly,
the information about the local Council and its activity in most cases means just stating the address, phone number
(sometimes e-mail is specified),list of deputies and the surname of the chairman of the Council. Information about the
Council’s activities is a big rarity.

      Only in the «The Star» (“Zvezda”) newspaper there is a weekly supplement called «Local self-government», which
in 2008-2009 was published every week, and then this frequency disappeared, and the application began to appearless
frequently. In other newspapers information on the activities oflocal Councils appears episodically.

    The citizens also face difficulties with obtaining information on the decisions of the Council and the Executive
Committee. The implementation of the principle of transparency is a problem for currentlocal government.

3. The main variants of development of the
situation in the sphere of local self-govern-
ment in Belarus
      Despite the existence of serious problems in the sphere of local self-government in Belarus (if we evaluate the
situation on the ground of principles and norms of the European Charter), the government believes that in this sphere
there are no significant problems. So, naturally, the proposed options from the point of view of the probability of their
implementation arelimited.

      Nevertheless,let us consider some of them:

      Option 1: maintaining the «status quo» - no changes, except for “cosmetic” solutions or solutions to tighten the
existing system.

      Option 2: imitation of reforms - a set of decisions and actions that create a sense of movement towards the
establishment and development of reallocal self-government, but in fact, the system remains unchanged.

     Option 3: «the creation of a fundament» and «from myth to reality» - preparation for the reforms and their

3.1. Option 1. Maintaining the status quo.
      This option is to preserve the existing system of governance at thelocallevel, the essence of which is as follows:
      • Local self-government is a continuation of the state, and its bodies are in factlocal government agencies;
      • Area of responsibility of local self-government is an implementation of state goals; so local self-government
agencies cannot have other tasks rather than formulated by the state;
      • Any public administration is a state affair, therefore the sense of existence of local self-government is not
divided by the state, but obeying its interests and goals.

      This is the vision of the local self-government in Belarus from the government’s point of view, and it has been
repeatedly supported with the statements of many senior executives including the President:

      «Central to this discussion must be the integrity of the vertical power from top to bottom, and no playing
«democracy.» If we destroy this foundation, and the basic level is the foundation of the power vertical, we can start
playing democracy, self-governance and so on» 2.

     «…The Councils are just the representative branches of the power. They do not even form executive committees,
do not appoint the heads oflocal executive bodies, they are just approved by them».

       «Under our laws the Councils are unlikely to be the landlords in their areas. They have different function. But
together with the executive branch they carry this burden, this responsibility, and together they should become masters
of a certain area. So I would really ask not to demand from thelocal Councils of deputies to solve the issues, which they
are not responsible for and which they do not even have authority to solve etc.» 3

      Even if we agree with the opinion of some political analysts that in the middle of the 90s creating a rigid
centralized system justified itself to some extent, the period of its validity is clearly delayed. Moreover, as shown by the
above quotes, no changes are to be expected.

     Manifested disregard for the local Councils as the representatives of citizens’ interests shows the attitude of
the government to citizens and democracy, and the decorative nature of the Councils which are officially to ensure

    2.  Meeting “On strengthening the role of primarylevel oflocal government in addressing the needs of the population », 18.05.2006.

    3.  From the interview of Alexander Lukashenko at a polling station on the day oflocal elections. The 25th of April 2010.

democratic entourage of thelocal self-government.
      With Option 1, decisions and actions of government are aimed at strengthening and improving the existing
system, but not at its fundamental change.

3.2. Option 2. Imitation of reforms.
     This option involves a set of specific solutions and (or) actions aimed at creating visibility of preparation and
implementation reforms in the sphere oflocal self-government.

      Such decisions and (or) actions may be:
      • Some development of different forms of participation of citizens in solving the problems of local
importance – the preparation of new laws about public hearings, surveys of public opinion. But, in the definitions of
these norms the phrase «on critical issues,» or «on public decisions,» etc. would be mentioned. That means that there
would be someone who has the right to determine what problem (or solution) to consider as «essential» or «of public
interest» for citizens, to decide whether the problem needs discussion with the citizens or not, and what should be kept
from the citizens as the «top secret».

      • Direct election of the chairmen of the Councils of Deputies by the citizens.
      Having the existing electoral system and the practice of usage of the so-called administrative resources, the
central government can be confident that only a politically loyal the candidate would be elected. In addition, the
chairmen of the Councils do not have any serious and real levers of influence on decision-making at the local level.
Even if some chairman tried to conduct any independent decisions, they (if necessary) would be easily blocked by the
Executive Committee (in particular, with the help of fully dependent and controlled deputies of the Council).

      But the direct elections of chairmen oflocal Councils will be presented to the society and international structures
as a big step towards democracy.

     • Changes to the regulations of the Councils in terms of easier access of citizens to sessions of the local
Councils, the introduction of declarative principle is even possible.

      In this case, there is no much risk, too, because if needed you can always vote for the conduction of a closed
discussion of an issue.

      Other changes can be introduced that look attractive and would have a democratic form, but do not change the
situation essentially.

      • Establishment of the Associations of Local Councils and the National Association of Local Councils.
      Currently there is no association of local councils in Belarus. If earlier it was due to the absence of proper legal
framework, later the adoption of the new edition of the Law «On Local Government and Self-Government», the Article
7 of this Act enshrined the right of local Councils to unite. However, after the Act came into force (July 15, 2010) the
central government instead of assisting and supporting the implementation of thislaw, performed some actions aimed
at counteracting such initiatives, in particular, made sure the international conference on the subject failed.

      In case of realization of Option 2 some actions to create associations of local Councils may be done, and the
associations would be created.

      However, in a centralized system, firstly, the entire process, beginning from the initiative to create them and
ending with their activities, would be «coordinated» (read: administratively controlled) by the Council of the Republic,
and, secondly, the associations are destined to be a democratic entourage.

     But the creation of associations of local Councils de jure will enable the government to declare the movement
towards the implementation of the principles and norms of the European Charter.

     • Analysis of the Belarusian law on local self-government for compliance with the principles and norms of
the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

      The system oflocal self-government should be based on internationally recognized principles and norms set forth
in the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

The analysis of the Belarusian law on local self-government for compliance with the principles and norms of the
European Charter of Local Self-Government would identify gaps and inconsistencies that are present (in terms of the
Charter) in the Belarusian legislation. This, in turn, would provide an opportunity to consider the identified problem
areas in the process of improving thelegislation and the preparation of the Concept.

       At first glance, it seems logical to create an expert group of Belarusian specialists to prepare such an analysis.
But, first, carrying out this work by Belarusian experts would not solve the problem, since being the opinion of only
one party in this case - the Republic of Belarus. Secondly, this path can lead to tensions. These concerns are caused by
periodically appearing claims that the Belarusianlaw onlocal self-government is already based on the principles of the
European Charter (see page 7 of the Concept of draft Code of Republic of Belarus «On Public Administration and Local
Self-Government», the Ministry of Justice, 2008).

      However, analyzing the opinions and articles of Belarusian and foreign experts, it can be concluded that this
statement is not quite true, as the system oflocal self-government in the Republic of Belarus and the European Charter
are based on different theoretical models and, naturally, contradictions and discrepancies are inevitable.

      The problem of the existence of sometimes diametrically opposite assessments of the legislation on local self-
government is based on different and subjective understanding of the nature of local self-government, its nature,
relationships between a person and the state, betweenlocal and central government.

     But, as it comes to assessing the Belarusian legislation for compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-
Government, not vice versa, then the execution of such an analysis by experts of the Institutional Committee of the
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe seems to be more reasonable andlogical.

       As this is the case with the preparation of the Concept, the analysis of the Belarusian legislation in the sphere
of local self-government is necessary, but to evaluate it from the point of view of the true intentions (an imitation
of reforms or preparing for real reform) will be possible only after a certain time after its completion (nothing would
happen or there would be actions based on analysis of the Charter and aimed at changing the Belarusian legislation
according with the norms and principles of the Charter).

      • Creation of an expert group to prepare a Concept of local self-government in the Republic of Belarus

      Such groups have been created earlier. The most «fresh» example is of 2002-2003, when an expert group consisting
from 25 members at the Institute of Economics of the National Academy of Sciences was created. The result of its work
was a project of the «Concept of Reform of Local Government and Self-Government in the Republic of Belarus.» It was
discussed at one meeting of the Presidential Administration, and then was put «under the carpet.»

      In total, there was over a dozen of draft «Concepts of Reforming the Local Government and Self-Government of
the Republic of Belarus» developed by both formal and informal groups, but none of these proposals has had any further

      On the one hand, it is necessary to create such a group before the reform, because one cannot start the reform
without clearly defined goals and objectives, methods and ways of reforming, action plan of reform and state institutions
responsible for its implementation. On the other hand, it is difficult to assess the establishment of the expert group as a
step to simulate a real reform, or as a step to prepare its implementation. The answer to this question can only be given
by the action (or inaction) of government after finalization of the Concept.

      In Option 2 the preparation of the Concept is regarded as imitation of reforms. That is, after the development and
consideration the Concept will be put «under the carpet» once again.

    But in some period of time (a year or two) the preparation of the Concept is able to create the impression of
movement towards the development oflocal self-government.

      As a result, the implementation of Option 2 is able for a small period of time to create an illusion of reforms oflocal
self-government and to bring certain political and economic benefits to the government.

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